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  • Writer's pictureLife Coach Bindiya Murgai

How to Spot Fake News

How to spot Fake News. And you must start doing it right away! The image here has been doing the rounds, as are various fake audio clips of renowned medical professionals giving critical medical advice related to Covid19. The surprising part is that seemingly educated people are forwarding these without bothering to verify the facts. Here are some quick tips on Fake News and how to catch it. Please use them (along with your better judgement) before you react or forward stuff. These are tough times as it is. We don't need misinformation to add to the cauldron of fear, hopelessness and panic.

Fake News is fabricated news that takes the appearance of real news with the aim of deceiving people. The intention is to provoke, enrage, defame, con or trigger a strong emotional reaction. There is so much of it flying around the internet that we need to be very vigilant. If you read something and it pushes your buttons, inflames or shocks you, convinces you to spend money, or instantly share it, that’s a red flag, and you must first verify it before being reactive.

Here are Facebook's guidelines for spotting Fake News, and the same rules mostly apply for spotting it on any other media:

“Be sceptical of headlines.” Fake news headlines often sound too good to be true — because they are. Especially beware of exclamation points and headlines written in all caps.

“Look closely at the link.” Never heard of the news site in the URL? Does the link sound like an established news source you’ve heard of, but there’s a letter or two added, or missing? These are telltale signs that wherever that link leads, it’s not to the truth.

“Investigate the source.” Brush up on the outlets you trust, and then keep your eye out for them. The internet is a big place, and a lot of sites work exclusively in the business of churning out false stories. Try searching outlets you’ve never heard of to see if they’re trusted — or junk.

“Watch for unusual formatting.” Could you design a better homepage than that? See tons of spelling errors, and find the layout awkward? If the site you’re on looks off, the problem likely goes deeper.

“Consider the photos.” Photos can be more convincing proof than words, but these days, they’re easily manipulated and may only show a version of the truth — or a total falsehood. To back-search an image and find where else it has been used, drag the file into Google Images to find out if what you were looking at was edited to show something other than reality.

“Inspect the dates.”

Pay close attention to the timelines given in the story. Do the dates match up with ones you can verify? If the timeline doesn’t track, it’s probably not you — it’s probably fake news.

“Check the evidence.” Are there links out to other stories, attributions or credits in the article? Like scientists, journalists cite their sources, and while some pieces are entirely original reporting, most will at least involve statistics, photos or quotes that can be attributed to real, verifiable humans or outlets. Don’t be fooled by the bogus coronavirus remedies being promoted.

“Look at other reports.” Is the outlet you’re reading the only one to report something extreme? It may be because that outlet made it up.

“Is the story a joke?” To those who don’t realize publications like the Onion and ClickHole are satirical publications, the humorous pieces they produce may appear to be real news, when in fact they’re intended as parodies. Plenty of memes, too, are not actually purporting to be news but amusing takes on it.

“Some stories are intentionally false.”

Stop the spread of malicious content. Make sure what you’re reading is credible before passing it on. A lot of websites are peddling unsubstantiated claims about the coronavirus.

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